Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hillary Blows Off the British

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been doing some curious things lately. The most recent was, during her visit to Argentina, when she called for the British to meet with the Argentine government to settle their dispute over the Falkland Islands, geographically located near the South American state, but under British jurisdiction since 1833.

This might seem reasonable on its surface, but was in fact diplomatically bizarre. The most recent dispute over the Falklands was decisively settled in 1982 when British troops repelled an Argentine military invasion. Great Britain is perhaps the United States’ most important ally in the world today, a friendship reinforced by our participation together in two world wars, the Cold War, the Iraq War, and by the powerful ties of common heritage, law and language. The population of the Falkland Islands is 70% of British origin and have voted overwhelmingly want to remain part of the British Commonwealth. They speak English. They are self-governing. They regard Argentina as an invader.

Moreover, Argentina today is an unstable nation, seemingly in perpetual economic and political crisis. Although currently democratic, it has endured dictatorship and military coups during much of the 20th century.

It was not always this way. At the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, Argentina boasted the leading economy in South America and the 7th largest economy in the world. With its large European-immigrated population, it was a center of industry and culture. Argentina had contributed, for example, the tango to world dance and music. It provided leading writers to Hispanic and world literature. Its capital, Buenos Aires, was then one of the great cities of the world.

Peronism, or demogogic populism, preceded by a series of military juntas, swept Argentina out of the world’s economic and political center over the middle decades of the 20th century. General Juan Peron formally took over the government in 1946, and through cronyism and corruption, destroyed what remained of the national economy. His charismatic but unstable wife Eva stood at his side until her death. Peron was removed by a military coup in 1955, but he came back in 1973. His second wife briefly replaced him before she herself was removed by a military coup. Only in 1982 did Argentina resume being a democratic state again. In 2003, Nestor Kirschner was elected president, and following his term, was replaced by his wife Cristina, the current president. But few of Argentina’s many economic problems have been solved in the Kirschner years.

Some observers have suggested that Mrs. Clinton, who was given a very warm welcome to Argentina by the Kirschners, was overcome by the parallel circumstances of the Clintons and the Kirschners, i.e., the two men being elected president, and then being followed by their wives. Of course, in Mrs. Clinton’s case, she only came close.

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